VisionLink Blog

By Ken Gibson

May 21, 2015

3 Ways to Turn Deferred Compensation into an Incentive Plan


Last week I talked about why deferred compensation (DC) is still a viable plan for the right organizations. Some of those companies are interested in a plan that serves as more than a means for employees to defer income and save taxes.  They want it to have a performance component associated with it. So this week, I'll discuss how to turn a plan into a means of creating greater focus on the results the company wants its top performers to achieve.

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By Ken Gibson

May 13, 2015

Should You Have a Deferred Compensation Plan?


Over the years, deferred compensation plans have experienced varying degrees of popularity in corporate America. They rose to prominence in the 70s with many major companies providing some form of this benefit to their executives. As companies started moving away from defined benefit and defined contribution plans and towards 401(k) plans in the 90s, deferral plan arrangements became a solution to offset the "reverse discrimination" those plans imposed against highly compensated executives. Then we hit the 2000s when Enron prompted 409A--and many organizations wondered if deferred compensation would even survive.  

So where are we now? Is such a plan still a viable pay strategy to employ? If so, how do you determine if your business should have one? 

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By Ken Gibson

May 04, 2015

Compensation and Income Inequality


Much has been said in recent years about the disparity of earnings between those who lead organizations and those employed by them.  The underlying theme is unfairness and the premise is that CEO compensation exceeds that of rank and file employees in a disproportionate way realtive to the value each bring to their organizations.  Few meaningful remedies are ever offered. For the most part, the subject simply makes for entertaining political conversation. That discussion will surely rachet up a few notches during the upcoming election season, so fasten your seat belt. (Sigh!)

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By Ken Gibson

April 24, 2015

Increase Shareholder Value by Sharing Value


A common concern of business leaders about making increases in compensation is affordability. This is especially true of incentive plans. The assumption is that "costs" will go up if an annual bonus or some type of long-term program such as phantom stock or a profit pool is added--and there's no room in the budget for that kind of increase. It's not an unreasonable response. However, it's rooted in an incorrect premise. Let's look at it from a more enlightened perspective.

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By Ken Gibson

April 17, 2015

5 Pay Practices of Successful, Growth-Oriented, Private Companies


If you lead an ambitious private company, you likely struggle with some part of your pay strategy. Maybe you're comfortable with your salary structure, but your annual bonus is ineffective. Or perhaps you've delegated the formation of your compensation approach to human resources--and are not feeling like it's headed in the right direction. It could be you feel your overall pay structure is solid enough but it's not helping you attract the kind of talent you're trying bring in.

In short, you don't feel there's alignment between compensation and the business model and strategy of the company. As a result, you're feeling some pain.

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By Ken Gibson

April 09, 2015

Why Employees Don't Take Ownership of Results


A common lament of business leaders is that their people don't "get" what's most important. They want their people to think and perform like a business partner but they seldom find them engaged on that level. There seems to be a consistent disconnect and the constant preaching about priorities and targets falls on deaf ears. To make matters worse, many employees act entitled and seem frustrated they aren't earning more--or that this year's bonus is no bigger than last. It's enough to make an owner scream. (If it will make you feel better, go ahead and let one out right now!) 

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By Ken Gibson

April 02, 2015

"To Share Equity or Not to Share Equity? That is..."


I don't think Shakespeare ever ran a business, but if he did, that likely would have been the question; not the infamous one he posed.

If you're a business owner or CEO who has tried to recruit a key producer--or hold on to the premier talent you have--you've inevitably been asked this question: "Can I have equity in the company?"  When faced with that query, you have probably struggled with how to respond.  You don't mind giving away stock if it means a bigger "pie" will be created but you worry about the immediate impact of diluting the present shareholer value. And what if a bigger "pie" doesn't materialize?

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By Ken Gibson

March 19, 2015

4 Reasons Pay for Performance Matters


Business leaders want their people to perform.  They know this needs to happen for the company to grow.

I don't know anyone who would argue with that. Despite that truth, many CEOs still struggle with whether or not the way they pay their people will have any bearing on the results they achieve. When a discussion arises about whether to add a long-term value-sharing plan or expand the scope of who participates in the annual bonus, paralysis sets in. They get stuck on this basic question: "Will it matter?" The concept of pay for performance is called into question primarily because they've "tried" things in the past and they haven't seemed to work. 

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By Ken Gibson

March 12, 2015

Pay and Stewardship: Getting Employees to Own Results


If I'm a business owner, I need my employees to draw the same conclusion I do about "what's important." And I want them to behave in a way that reflects that understanding and commitment. Would you agree?

Stewardship of results, however, does not just occur because employees come to understand better what company ownership wants to achieve. This is an assumption too many business leaders make. "I have told my employees about my vision and what I expect of them, so why are they not more focused? Why am I not seeing the results I anticipated?"  Why indeed? Let's explore the reasons.

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By Ken Gibson

March 04, 2015

3 Standards Every Pay Plan Should Meet


Most organizations have difficulty determining the effectiveness of their pay strategies. The reason for this is quite simple. Few business leaders establish standards for measuring the success of their company's compensation plans. Most are created in reaction to a need. "What will it take to attract John Smith (we've got to have him) or to keep Mary Jones (we can't afford to lose her)?" They end up increasing someone's salary, sharing stock or installing a discretionary bonus plan just to deal with the immediate issue at hand.  Over time, various pay plans accumulate into a compensation mess with no strategic direction or moorings.

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By Ken Gibson

February 23, 2015

Does Compensation Impact Motivation...and Therefore Results?


Years ago, former GE Chief Executive, Jack Welch, made this assertion:

Former GE CEO, Jack Welch

"If you want people to live and breathe the vision, 'show them the money' when they do, be it with salary, bonus, or significant recognition. To quote a friend of mine, Chuck Ames, the former chairman and CEO of Reliance Electric, "Show me a company's various compensation plans, and I'll show you how its people behave.'" (Winning, HarperBusiness, 2005, Jack Welch and Suzy Welch)

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By Ken Gibson

February 17, 2015

Is "Performance Pay" an Oxymoron?


The idea of performance pay is a good one, right? Someone's compensation should be tied to the results he or she produces. Simple. So why the angst? Why do so many organizations struggle with linking pay to results? Why do so many conclude that the term is nothing more than an oxymoron? 

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By Ken Gibson

January 30, 2015

Line of Sight Improves Accountability


Discussions about accountability in an organization sometimes (often?) minimize the impact of pay on performance. In part, this stems from notions popularized in writings such as Daniel Pink's Drive which posit that incentive rewards don't really "work" and that all motivation is really intrinsic. Therefore, if you pay people "fairly," and get out of their way, everything will work out--accountability will kind of take care of itself. I'm oversimplifying, but you get the idea.

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By Ken Gibson

January 21, 2015

Can Pay Improve Accountability?



One of the biggest barriers to growth most businesses experience is lack of accountability. CEOs want a workforce that adopts a stewardship approach to their roles, but often come up short and are frustrated. As a result, many find themselves in a quandary when it comes to paying bonuses or other incentives."If I a pay a bonus based on these results, I'm sending the wrong message. Sam hasn't performed in a way that justifies a payout." However, too often, generous genes kick in and the bonus is paid anyway.

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By Ken Gibson

December 22, 2014

Pay as a Growth Partner


If you run a business as a CEO or owner, there are presumably certain issues that you have identified as key to your company's future success. It's likely you see a future company that is bigger and better than the present company. Although the specific outcomes you seek to achieve might be unique to your organization, there are usually some common denominators in the "what's important?" category. For example:
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CLIENT SUCCESS STORIES

"VisionLink has helped us successfully navigate a number of complex issues regarding our rewards programs. It has dealt with all facets of these varied issues with a high degree of competence, integrity, and straight forward advice. VisionLink's experienced team has consistently delivered first class results in a timely, professional manner and has become a valued Storm partner."

Thomas K. Grzywacz
Storm Industries, Inc.

"VisionLink has helped us successfully engineer a long-term incentive plan that has empowered our company to reward and retain key talent while increasing shareholder value. The knowledge, patience and deep experience of its team members helped us navigate a road that was unfamiliar to us. Ultimately, VisionLink designed a plan that met the high standards of both stockholders and key management employees. We have further engaged VisionLink to address our business succession and transition planning needs."

Reggie Dupre'
Dupre Logistics

"Over the past several years, National Technical Systems has engaged VisionLink to provide insight and direction on a number of executive compensation issues, as well as a performance evaluation of our 401(k) plan. Under its direction, NTS completely revamped executive level rewards to align with our business growth objectives and the strategic plan of the company. VisionLink's insight and direction have been invaluable. NTS has achieved its growth objectives and our executives feel appropriately rewarded for their performance."

Bill McGinnis
National Technical Systems

"VisionLink arrived on the scene just in time for us. We needed a new framework for our short-term and long-term incentive plans. VisionLink's modeling and forecasting process broadened our horizons and expanded our view of how to use a good incentive system to build, retain and strengthen our senior management team. We remain impressed by their expertise, professionalism and great service."

James Keng
Jimway, Inc.

"Our firm has had a long-term incentive plan for over eight years but we never quite felt like it was firing on all cylinders. We hired VisionLink to re-energize our plan, and they did it! We now have a cohesive awards strategy that's fair to shareholders and valued by our employees. VisionLink's team is technically skilled and very creative. We're happy to recommend VisionLink to firms looking to upgrade their management incentive programs."

John M
FTO Inc.

"Our company was like VisionLink's typical clients. We were great at sales and haphazard at how we compensated our people. VisionLink's process brings great clarity and confidence to our growth planning - and makes compensation a great growth capability."

Dan Sullivan
Strategic Coach ©

"The team at VisionLink helped our company structure a long-term incentive plan that parallels the company's strategy for continued growth as a global market leader within our industry. Their approach resulted in a program that our corporate team and executives embraced on both a professional and personal basis. Through VisionLink's guidance and execution, we were able to create both a motivational tool for current team members and a recruiting device to attract future executive level associates. Well done!"

Mark Rhoades
Fluidmaster, Inc.

"As a leading direct seller of scrapbook photo albums and supplies, Creative Memories has independent consultants across the country. And for over six years now, VisionLink has helped us to stay connected and administer a voluntary 409A non-qualified plan for them. VisionLink has provided support for all aspects of our plan from notification of eligibility through registration and distribution. The VisionLink support team has offered suggestions for improving processes and provided us with outstanding service year after year."

Guy Walker
Creative Memories North America